Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Supreme Court Decision - Part I

Well it finally happened. The U. S. Supreme Court decided by a 6 to 3 margin yesterday in favor of the parents in the case of
Forest Grove Sch Dist v. TA 557 U. S. _____ (2009). The opinion by Justice Stevens was joined by five other justices including Ginsburg and Alito. (Once again, I suggest a new motto for special education: special education - bringing people together.) Justice Souter wrote the dissenting opinion and was joined by Scalia and Thomas.

You can view both the majority opinion and the dissent at this link.

A few preliminary observations: first, the supremes essentially adopted the reasoning of the Ninth Circuit, including the argument that it would be absurd to prohibit the possibility of reimbursement where a district never finds a child to be eligible.

Second, the High Court at page 17 of the slip opinion for the first time explicitly recognizes the authority of hearing officers to award reimbursement. This is important given the school district's argument at oral argument that hearing officers lacked such authority.

There will be more about this decision in subsequent posts. Please stay tuned.


  1. I think this decision is a significant victory for disabled students and their parents.

    Regarding the first observation, both sides in this case offered a 'parade of horribles', but the parents' was far more plausible than the districts, and I'm glad to see that the Court recognized this.

    Specifically, the notion that a ruling for the parents would let parents bypass public school districts in favor of private schools overlooks the fact that parents determined to get their students into private schools at public expense could abuse the system by pulling their kids from public special ed programs, and claiming that they are inadequate. Although the 97 revisions do impose some limits in this situation, it still seems like parents would have a better prospect of success where they can compare what the district offered with what the private school provides, and what experts found necessary, than in trying to claim that the district failed to provide a FAPE when they didn't even ask for one.
    So, a ruling for the district wouldn't have prevented abuse of the system by parents, but only created a loophole by which districts could escape liability for a complete denial of services.

  2. Hello sir, Sorry to say that, i am not able to see your Vote, can u please let me know, which number is your Vote??

  3. Thanks JPS,

    Feelings about this case are strong on both sides.


  4. Thanks retha,

    I have commented on your blog with the info. Thanks for reading.